Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
‘How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime.’
I very rarely pick up a book if I’ve already seen the movie. Sure, there are likely to be differences but the experience is still spoiled for me. I had to make an exception with Atonement because I adored the movie but I could see how much more the story would shine and benefit from text. And shine did it ever.
Usually I complain about over-descriptiveness in stories, and this was definitely descriptive, yet the author possesses a skill in writing that is completely captivating. He sets the scene with ease and transports you into the very midst of it. His words envelop you and leave you mesmerized. I could go on and on regarding the beauty of this story and the multitude of emotions it managed to evoke in me but put simply, this book was a breath of fresh air.
I’ve been told this is the best to expect from Ian McEwan but I will still eagerly dive into more of his works.
In the third book in this beloved and “riveting” (Romantic Times) urban fantasy series, demon-friendly tiki bar owner Arcadia Bell discovers more about her own evolving, and possibly destructive, magical abilities when her bar is the target of a demonic crime wave.
Renegade mage and bartender Arcadia Bell has had a rough year, but now the door to her already unstable world is unhinging. When a citywide crime wave erupts, Cady's demon-friendly tiki bar is robbed by Earthbounds wielding surreal demonic abilities that just flat-out shouldn't exist. With the help of her devilishly delicious boyfriend, Lon Butler, Cady sets out to find the people who wronged her—but her targets aren't the only ones experiencing unnatural metamorphoses. Can Cady track down the monsters responsible before the monster inside her destroys everything—and everyone—she loves? If she survives this adventure, one thing is certain: it's last call for life as she knows it.
There are those kinds of Urban Fantasy worlds that are intricately built and detailed that you can completely envision and understand it. But then there are those kinds of worlds that are so easily envisioned that they are almost real. Sure there’s a demon realm and magicians and all sorts of other craziness going on but you could swear it’s really happening around you, Arcadia Bell’s world is just that vivid. It’s a world that manages to suck you in and make you a part of it all. That’s the kind of world that Jenn Bennett has crafted in her Arcadia Bell series.
In my experience, the longer a series goes on for the less likely I am to continue loving it. Characters get old, story lines feel reused… I just prefer stand-alones more often than not. Well, that theory gets completely blown out of the water when it comes to this series. This series has managed to get infinitely better with each new story, and Binding the Shadows is the best installment yet. The character growth continues building, the relationships continue to get stronger and more involved, and I can only sit back and marvel at the complexity of the story lines.
I was in complete awe by the last page. Jenn Bennett isn’t afraid to take the risk and inflict her characters with immense pain and suffering but I believe that risky chance paid off big. These characters may be fictional but they struggle despite their magical abilities and it manages to humanize them. Binding the Shadows leaves you with a jaw-dropper of an ending that will leave you desperately wanting ‘Crossing the Æthyr’. Urban Fantasy fans: read this series, it won’t fail to enthrall you.
A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen
In 1002, fifteen-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.
Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.
Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers.
“You must ever be prepared within yourself to face what trials may lay in store for you. let this be your first lesson: No one else must see you like this, Emma. Do you hear me? However great the provocation you must never allow anyone to see your fear.”
I’m a huge fan of historical fiction novels but to be honest, I don’t branch out enough outside of my comfortable safe-zone known as the Tudor time period. This one caught my eye primarily because it is still set in England, however, it’s in a very, very early England. After this one, I do believe I have learned my lesson and I need to take more chances with my historical fiction picks. Shadow on the Crown was superbly done.
‘Their destinies were like two rivers that flowed ever in the same direction, within sight of each other but never meant to meet, to touch, to join as one.’
What worked incredibly well was the evidence of research that was done in preparation for this novel. The author has stated that Shadow on the Crown is based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but it’s evident the author has the ability to take pieces of history and create a truly stirring story. Also, I really appreciated her interpretation of the romances. In most historical fiction novels the romances are portrayed similarly to a historical romance (bodice ripper) and just comes off as corny rather than genuine.
Each character was given their own unique voice and even though they were not a main character their bits in the story still shown. Emma was an amazingly strong character and it was a joy to read (the majority of) this story through her eyes. The POV does occasionally switch up but is not overdone and provides additional and necessary facets of this story.
What truly blows me away about this novel is that it’s a debut novel. The few historical fiction debut novels I’ve read in the past have all read like the author is re-wording their history books. Patricia Bracewell managed to re-tell a piece of history and imbue something vibrant into it. It’s quite obvious that the author is passionate about history and this time period in general but her passion is addicting and made it a true joy to read. Shadow on the Crown does not tell all of Emma’s story so I’m very much looking forward to future books.
The girl who wouldn’t die. Hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist.
Chicago 1931. Violent drifter Harper Curtis stumbles upon a house that hides a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature: it opens onto other times.
Harper uses it to stalk his ‘shining girls’ across decades – and cut the fire out of them.
He’s the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. Until one of his victims survives and turns the hunt around.
Chicago, 1992. Kirby Mazrachi’s determination to find the man who tried to kill her has taken over her life.
The cops no longer return her calls. Her mother copes by writing morbid children’s books. Her only ally is Dan, the burnt-out ex-homicide reporter who covered her case.
As Kirby closes in on her would-be killer, what she finds is ... impossible. Murders scattered across the decades along with evidence that makes no sense. Meanwhile, Harper is closing in on her, too.
‘Everything happens for a reason. He should be grateful. It’s because he is forced to leave that he finds the House. It is because he took the coat that he has the key.’
Harper stalks his Shining Girls through time and the House helps him. He visits the girls when they are children, takes mementos from them and tells them he’ll be back for them when it’s time. When that time comes, he leaves their bodies with a new memento, one taken from a different Shining Girl. His goal is to kill them all, all who Shine, and his mission is complete. Except one survived. And now she’s the one looking for him.
The writing style is extremely explicit. The murders are terribly graphic and incredibly detailed so if you can’t stomach ‘Dexter’ you’re definitely not going to be able to manage this one. I have quite the stomach for gruesome tales but even this one came close to pushing my boundaries. Added to the gruesome details is the heartbreaking bits. There’s this one scene in particular where one of the women is trying to stop the killer and in the process is telling him about her kids and how she has to be there for them because they’re going to be waking up soon… I’m not much of a softie for sad times but even that got to me pretty bad. Plus, I think it should be mentioned there’s also a gruesome scene involving a dog that may or may not have caused a tear or two.
‘He only has to think of a time and it will open onto it, although he can’t always tell if his thoughts are his own or if the House is deciding for him.’
Much like what karen says in her review of The Shining Girls, this book reminds me very much of Life After Life despite it’s obvious differences. Life After Life isn’t technically time-travel but the transitions through time are quite similar, also both novels lack the scientific backing to support the time-traveling, it’s either believable or it’s not. Both novels had similar writing styles with bouncing back and forth to different times. It shouldn’t make sense and it should be terribly confusing and hard to follow but somehow it manages to make complete and utter sense. Lauren Beukes writes with such confidence though that it really leaves no room for questioning. I never had a doubt.
‘It’s the same tug in his stomach that brought him to the House. That jolt of recognition when he walks into someplace he’s meant to be. He knows it when he sees the tokens that match the ones in the room. It is a game. It’s a destiny he’s writing for them. Inevitably, they’re waiting for him.’
This book blew my mind. I finished it late one night and ended up unable to fall asleep because I simply could not stop thinking about it. There were a few questions that went unanswered that I wish had been but my overall opinion of the book remained bright and shiny. (ha, pun intended) The two things I had issue with her major spoilers but I had to include them. Please do not click if you have any intention of reading this! View Spoiler »Kirby spent years investigating, trying to find the man who tried to murder her. In the end, he ended up coming back to her after discovering that he didn’t finish the job. The fact that all her researching seemingly amounted to nothing was bothersome. It made me wonder if his other crimes went unsolved or if after being introduced to the House if it made Kirby re-question everything. She saw the Room and saw the names of the other girls so in my mind I’d like to think that even though it wouldn’t have been easily proven at the very least she figured it out in the end. Considering the ending was slightly left open to interpretation, that’s just my interpretation. 🙂 « Hide Spoiler View Spoiler »Also, we’re given back-story on a lot, like regarding Bartek and the money bag and even a short glimpse of who Harper was in his younger years, but the one scene I kept waiting for was how the Room came to be. Each girls name was in Harper’s handwriting on the walls, it just made me wonder if the Room came together all at once or if it was pieced together over time as he found each of his Shining Girls. « Hide Spoiler
The Shining Girls is a horrid and nightmarish tale but so completely intense and unforgettable that it’s certain to leave a lasting impression. It’s a story possessing such vehemence you practically need a good, strong drink to aid you through it. In honor of the drink the House never failed to provide I recommend a whisky straight-up, no ice.
The magic is all around you, if only you open your eyes....
Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills--until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures--from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People--to find a way to make things right.
In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl's journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one's own destiny
“Everything is a lesson if you’re willing to learn something from it.”
Twelve year old Lillian is an adventurous little girl who traverses the Tanglewood forest searching for fairies that she’s convinced exist. After she’s tragically bitten by a snake and dies, she hovers above her body long enough to witness the ring of cats that has surrounded her. Next thing she knows, she’s awake again and is now furry with paws. Seeking to find a way to rectify the situation, she seeks to change the past but in turn ends up living an even worse existence after her Aunt dies after being bitten by the snake instead.
“Maybe there’s a reason why the snake bit you, the cats changed you, and you’re no longer a girl. Maybe there’s something you can learn from being a cat instead of a girl.”
Tanglewood’s main lesson centers around how small choices can lead to surprisingly large consequences that you may not realize until it’s too late. Despite it’s fantasy elements, it still manages to be a lesson that can be understood and appreciated. Charles de Lint has crafted a perfectly charming folktale story and in addition to the enchanting art of Charles Vess this is one that children and adults both are sure to enjoy.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
“What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you got it right? Would you do it?”
-Edward Beresford Todd
This is the story of Ursula Todd’s live(s), and of her death(s), and of how she lives when given a second chance. Each time she dies (and returns) she obtains a sense of deja vu from her past lives. She uses these bits of knowledge from these previous scenes of life to “get it right” and to change the outcome of her life now. Practice makes perfect after all.
The writing was flawless, albeit a tad hard to grasp at first. There’s a constant flipping back and forth between time and it was supremely difficult to determine which story went with which one, however it all comes together in the end. I found it best to simply read, absorb, and watch the story unfold without putting too much thought into it or keeping notes regarding what is happening with each date (speaking from personal experience, it’s completely unnecessary).
“No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.”
Despite her multiple chances to “get it right”, Ursula did not always succeed. She may have avoided one obstacle she encountered in a previous life only to run into another. As Ursula said, “We can never get it right, but we must try.” Life isn’t perfect, and even if you had multiple chances to go back and change things it still won’t be perfect. I think it also meant that sometimes we need to experience these imperfections in order to truly know how to “get it right”.
It was amazing to watch each scene transpire and be able to witness how one single act not only resulted in evading death (the second time around of course) but how drastically different her life often was. But what was even more amazing was finishing the story and fully grasping all the story lines that had been going on and having them all come together harmoniously. There truly aren’t enough adjectives in existence for me to properly describe how truly amazing I found this book to be. Life After Life was genius, superbly written, intricately detailed, and capable of an emotional resonance you won’t see coming.
Winner of the Portico Prize
Winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize
Short-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award
Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian). Now, in this collection of short fiction published in England to phenomenal praise, she has created a work at once provocative and mesmerizing.
‘A Beautiful Indifference’ is a collection of seven short stories that had been previously published in various forms and have been honored for awards on their own. The first story, ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2010 and ‘Vuotjärvi’ was long-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011.
I’ve only recently started reading short stories but I decided to pick this one up and was very pleased. Very raw and disconcerting stories with prose that really packs a punch and manages to leave your mind whirling. Each story is very allegorical. Lacking in a true, concrete conclusion and typically left open to interpretation, they all seem to have some deeper meaning that was unattainable for the most part for me. Despite this, these were some of the most gratifying short stories I have ever read. The writing was truly brilliant and left me always wanting more. Sarah Hall is definitely an author worth checking out.
The new novel from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours is a spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.
During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.
The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
‘It was the liquid silver flash Laurel would always remember. The way sunlight caught the metal blade, and the moment was briefly beautiful.’
In 1959, when Laurel was sixteen years old she watched as a stranger walked up her driveway, said hello to her mother, before her mother stabbed him to death. But the man wasn’t a stranger at all because before he died she heard him speak:
”Hello, Dorothy,” the man said. “It’s been a long time.”
When the police interviewed her mother, Laurel admits to seeing everything. Her mother didn’t do anything wrong, that the stranger had attacked her and she had no choice but to do what she had done. Nothing more was ever said about the man’s death and Laurel never asked but she the memories of that day never left her.
Fifty years later, Laurel’s mother has been hospitalized so she returns to her childhood home to be with her. Returning only revives the memories but this time she’s determined to finally find the answers to the mystery that has plagued her for almost her entire life.
The story flashes back and forth between 1940 and present day. As Laurel begins uncovering answers to her mother’s past, the truth begins to unfold. There is so much that can be said but shouldn’t for fear of ruining the story. Definitely one that truly needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Suffice it to say, it was an incredible mystery with intriguing and amazingly well-developed characters; a definite treat.
The immensity of the revelation at the end truly took my breath away. That moment when all is revealed and all the unanswered questions are finally given resolution and you finally see it all in its finality? Oh, the feelings! This book made me feel so much and it was intense, amazing, bittersweet and so poignant. Reading something with such intricate detailing, intersecting storylines that blended beautifully, and an ending I never could have possibly imagined… this was a real gem. I won’t be forgetting this story for a long time to come.
For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.
In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a duffel bag into her hands.
By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every symptom confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artifact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact: a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life’s work and to one of history’s great riddles: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate.
With only days remaining until December 21, 2012, Stanton and Chel must join forces before time runs out.
This is actually the first ‘2012’ type story I’ve ever read and it truly blew me away. Look up the definition of ‘page-turner’ and you should see a picture of this book. It was thrilling, addicting, and I couldn’t put it down. One of those that I was more than willing to sacrifice sleep so I could keep reading. 12.21 tells the story of an infection that once it starts spreading it cannot be stopped and how it could very well be the reason the Maya civilization originally disappeared.
I wouldn’t consider myself a 2012 fanatic but I have seen my fair share of Mayan prophecy shows on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. I’ve never considered the fact that the world is truly going to end on December 21, 2012, but I think it’s a fair assumption that something may very well indeed happen that changes the world we live in. Or it could be like every other normal day, who knows. I guess we’ll just have to wait a few short months and find out firsthand. But the storyline in 12.21 of one possible outcome was terrifyingly realistic and incredibly convincing.
I loved how this wasn’t just an end of world tale and how it was actually linked to the very reason the Maya civilization disappeared so very long ago. Based on the Authors Note, ‘there is no evidence that the Maya suffered from a transmissible prion disease’, but regardless this was a riveting concept. Dustin Thomason created an amazing yet lifelike end of days story that is hands down my favorite read of 2012.
Truly deserving of the accolade a modern classic, Donna Tartt’s novel is a remarkable achievement—both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful.
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
‘I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.’
I was pretty blown away at how much I enjoyed this. It took me almost an entire month to read (which is practically unheard of for me) but this is one that you definitely can’t zoom right through in my opinion. Incredibly detailed and enthralling, I’m really glad that I paced myself and took my time because this is one to be savored.
Truly compelling, you already know from the very first line what’s to come:
‘The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.’
All of the characters were vibrant and completely unforgettable. Despite knowing exactly what’s to come, the beauty of this story is the slow unraveling process that the author takes you through, detailing each and every step the friends took to get to that final moment. I can definitely see why this one is considered a modern classic.